Skip to main content

Offseason | 2024

Troy Aikman on Cowboys' QB: 'I still believe in Dak'


FRISCO, Texas — Troy Aikman had his fair share of criticism and hard times as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, both in the beginning and in the end of his career, so he can, on some level, relate to what Dak Prescott is up against as the face of the most scrutinized and criticized franchise in all of sports.

Aikman, a former first-overall pick in 1989, fell out of the gate to a record of 0-11 as a rookie, and suffered a combined record of 14-24 over his first three seasons. 

Needless to say, he was then labeled by many outside of the building as anything but the Chosen One, only to prove them all wrong in Year 4 and beyond — ultimately leading the Cowboys to three Super Bowl wins via a Hall of Fame career. Prescott, a former fourth-round pick entering his ninth year, is still working to overcome the postseason obstacle, but Aikman hasn't written the three-time Pro Bowler off.

"I still believe in Dak," said Aikman, speaking at an event honoring the City of Dallas for being recognized as the No. 1 Sports Business City by Sports Business Journal. "I feel like until you do it, there are always those criticisms. Peyton Manning heard that his first three years — he didn't win a playoff game — and then you look back at it now and you can't imagine anybody would question whether or not he could win a playoff game."

Prescott and the Cowboys have taken the NFC East crown in two of the last three seasons to go along with a regular season record of 36-15, but they're also now 1-2 in the tournament that followed. 

Their loss to the Green Bay Packers was as demoralizing as you'll see, and the accountability can be spread nearly evenly across the board — offense, defense, special teams and coaching — raising questions on if Prescott, who produced an MVP-frontrunner season before the wheels came off of the offense in January, can end the Super Bowl drought that extends back to Aikman's days in the driver's seat.  

"I do know that we all draw on our past experiences," said Aikman. "And when we don't have great experiences, then those become hard to overcome, and I think that's the challenge for Dak. The question for him, and really for the team, isn't so much what happens in the regular season but rather how you play once you get into the postseason. That makes for a long year when that's the way it works. 

"And I've been there as well, as far as when the expectations are high. … The Cowboys have been through that earlier in their franchise history, so the pressure gets higher, for sure, as they go into this offseason and next season. It makes it hard to come back and put themselves in position to do it all over again."

And therein lies the added rub, because Prescott isn't getting any younger and there is currently no extension being inked for head coach Mike McCarthy, along with the reality that the NFL is a business of attrition and, as such, roster turnover on an annual basis becomes an added challenge to the ultimate goal.

"It's hard in this league to keep the [proverbial window] open," Aikman added.

He's not wrong, and the onus is on all involved to right the ship next season, but not simply between the months of September and December, because that is now expected, which means it will not be the bar for which success or failure is measured in 2024.

A deep playoff run will be, and nothing short of that will silence Prescott's, or Cowboys' critics.

Related Content